Washington has seen an influx of celebrity chefs and international chains, but independent restaurants are going strong, too. A prime example is Wild Tomato, a new venture from Damian and Stephanie Salvatore of Bethesda’s Persimmon. Their Cabin John bistro is the epitome of a neighborhood joint: Chalkboards cheer on the Rockville High School football team, a local artist’s paintings of oversize artichokes and cabbages line the walls, and plates max out at $20.
While Damian, the chef, shows a fondness for French sauces and duck confit at Persimmon, he happily slings wings and pizzas here. The humbler fare—such as a Parmesan-heavy artichoke-and-spinach dip and a classic wedge salad with a buttermilk-blue dressing—can be very tasty. Pizzas are great, anchored by a not-too-thin crust that remains sturdy under the weight of such trimmings as artichokes, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, and peppers.
Salvatore falters a bit on more refined dishes—tough hanger steak with oversalted kale, too-buttery steamed mussels—but patrons don’t seem to mind: Even on a Tuesday, the place was filled with customers, from families with small children to a pair of high-school coaches. In other words, the neighborhood thinks it fits right in.
This article appears in the April 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.